Rutgers takes two at Barn as Langel upsets No. 13 Frey
On the surface, it was nothing new for the Rutgers wrestling team. The No. 18 Scarlet Knights demolished George Mason and Princeton Saturday night at the College Ave Gym by scores of 36-9 and 42-0, respectively.
But the expected result came with a silver lining for a sophomore 125-pounder.
"I just went out there [Saturday] with nothing to lose," said Joe Langel, who took down Princeton's Garrett Frey, avenging an early-round loss in last year's EIWA Tournament.
Frey, ranked No. 13 in the country, marked one of the few challenges facing the Knights on a night where Rutgers took 17 of a possible 20 bouts.
Who would take on Frey was a question mark heading into the dual, but when fellow sophomore Matt Fusco took on George Mason's Zack Huxford, the Langel and Frey rematch was decided.
"Joey is a funker and they wrestled together growing up, so we wanted to see Langel against Frey," said head coach Scott Goodale. "We knew that a win would put him right back into the thick of things in the national poll."
And once Goodale named Langel the starter against Princeton in the middle of the week, the Howell, N.J., native began to focus on the wrestler who pinned him a year ago in Bethlehem, Pa.
"We knew about middle of the week that I was going to go up against Frey," Langel said. "We thought that the matchup was good. And [Goodale] knew that I wanted revenge against Frey."
Langel entered as the No. 2 seed at the EIWA Tournament last year and a heavy favorite, while Frey came in as the seventh seed.
When they faced off this time around, Frey came in ranked while Langel was not even the concrete starter in the Knights' lineup.
The rematch stayed close through the first two periods, with Frey entering the third with a 4-2 lead.
But Langel held on over two minutes of riding time, giving him one point at the end of the match if he held a minute advantage.
Langel escaped early in the third to bring the score to 4-3 — 4-4 realistically due to the riding time point — but Langel had no intentions of taking the match to overtime.
With less than 15 seconds left in regulation, Langel brought a packed Barn to its feet by taking down Frey and earning the 6-4 decision.
"I could sense heading into the third that we were both getting fatigued," Langel said. "I just kept riding him and I could sense mentally that I was starting to wear him down."
The rest of the Princeton matchup went according to plan, as the Rutgers grapplers did not give the Tigers any room to breathe.
The Knights' ability to keep focus and take down opponents of lesser quality defined the team in recent years, as Rutgers moved to 9-1 on the year.
"We just take it as any other match," said senior Daryl Cocozzo, who earned a pin and a major decision on the day. "We get a good warm-up in, get mentally prepared and get ready to score a lot of points."
The Knights have a few days off before traveling to Illinois for the Midlands Tournament during winter break. The tournament serves as a good barometer for where the team is with only one semester separating the squad and the NCAA Tournament.
"[The momentum] will end tomorrow," Goodale said. "We will have a couple of days off to recover our bodies and we will look forward to two hard weeks of training for what is really a mini National Tournament."